OSML and San Diego Maker Faire

Ellen Hendricks

Following the success of Maker Faire, we’ve been reflecting on what bringing a San Diego Faire to life really looks like. From conception to realization, there is a lot of planning and experimenting that goes into a Faire. Open Source Maker Labs has been involved with creating a faire in the area since the first brainstorming sessions, so we have a pretty unique perspective on the process.

The first discussion of such an event took place in November of 2012, which eventually culminated into the Mini Maker Faire the following year. We like to look at the Mini Faire as a trial run, the basis for a larger version. Working with the rest of the Maker Faire team, we collectively wanted to create something bigger and better. The spirit of the faire is of collaboration, sharing ideas, and having fun Making things. The bigger the event, the more creation and inspiration occurs.

With this in mind, the original brainstorming team formed the San Diego Maker’s Guild in 2014. This group’s goals are not only to continue creating events like Maker Faire, but to foster the Maker community in San Diego. The Guild exists to encourage creativity, passion, innovation, and learning. Additionally, this organization allows for collaboration between MakerSpaces. Four such spaces are a part of the San Diego Maker ecosystem, including OSML. This has created the opportunity for inter-space projects, better communication, and innovative idea-flow between each of our organizations.

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One of our Maker Faire’s most famous attractions, the Cupcake Car, is a product of the system fostered by the San Diego Maker’s Guild. All four cars were built through collaboration between our lab, Fab Lab, and the many volunteers collected through the Guild. Two of the cars (Shaun the Sheep and the Chocolate cupcake) were built entirely in North County, while the other two were moved over to Fab Lab after the initial base creation. These cars are a perfect example of the Maker movement. As our founder Dan Hendricks often says, there are no real instructions for a cupcake car. Those involved with the builds for each car can say that they are all unique. There was a lot of experimenting, a lot of trouble-shooting, and a lot of “I don’t know how to do this, but let’s figure it out!” Each new discovery in the build process allowed for refinement and changes to the next car in the line. Making is about innovating, about trying out something that may not work, and about having fun learning something new, and each of these themes were a part of the cupcake builds.

Our cars weren’t completely done until  the recent 2015 Faire, but their progress was displayed at the “Micro Faire” held here at Open Source in the summer of this year, along with many other potential Faire projects. Originally intended to be a Guild meet-up, this event turned into a smaller version of a Faire, with about forty people in attendance. Among the creations presented were the MARLAC (Marshmallow linear accelerator), a tabletop line tracing robot, 3-D printing demonstrations, wearable electronics, and a show and tell with the cupcakes. This was a small beta test for some local projects, to see how they would perform in a Faire-like setting, and for the attendees to get a better understanding of what might happen during a larger event.

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Both this micro faire, and the 2013 Mini Faire helped the planning team to be able to pull everything together. They were about learning what was already working, and what needed to be fixed. But that was only half the battle. Once we, and everyone involved in this massive project, learned what needed to be done, we still needed to put our plans to action. Many of the original planning team were in charge of a huge part of the faire, and we were no exception. OSML has been utilized as a building facility, a meeting space, a volunteer training facility, and a test site. Our staff has been involved in the all negotiations, discussions with sponsors, planning layouts and events, organizing exhibitors and our local Maker community.


Planning the first annual San Diego Maker Faire is really representative of the Maker movement. It was a learning process, a plan with improvised instructions. Multiple drafts, successes and learning experiences, communication and teamwork. Late nights, early mornings, and great work was done by all. Through the efforts of the planning team,and of our local Makers, an idea for Maker collaboration in 2012 eventually culminated into what we hope will be a new San Diego tradition.


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